A Slothful Rainbow Finish

The original sketch Slothy is based on.

April has been a strange month for me. It’s not been unproductive (in terms of crafts or work), but it feels like it was. Weird. However, I can share a finish that has taken me to some new places and that I am very proud of – the Rainbow Sloth is finished!

It took a degree of dithering over a few of the finishing details (how to do the face/eyes/claws, to embroider or not to embroider, hanging solutions, leaf arrangement and attachment), but finally it has all come together!

The face was trickier than I expected – mostly because I wanted to show the classic sloth face-markings but not end up with something that looked like a skull. To make it appear “fuzzier”, I ended up quilting the white areas quite heavily with a thread with a special property – Madeira’s “Halloween” glow-in-the-dark polyester thread, which quilts really nicely. I deliberately allowed the quilting to overlap the darker areas in places to help blend the transition better, and left the eye and nose markings unquilted so that they retained some dimension and definition.

I perhaps slightly lost the plot for some of the face quilting – in my defence, it’s quite a challenge to quilt with a colour that blends in perfectly with the fabric you’re quilting!

Sloth’s eyes and nose are scraps of a synthetic, slightly metallic, leather-look fabric that I have had for literally years – more than long enough for me to forget how annoying it is to sew with. It sticks to the machine’s foot, rucks up and generally refuses to stay put – and of course you can’t pin it where it’ll show because pins leave “scars”. I had to completely re-do both eyes after the first try ended up a total mess.

However, it was also a great choice for the claws, so when I came to do them I pinned a generously sized piece of tissue paper over the area I wanted to place the claws, drew claw shapes based on what I could see through the paper, then carefully slid a piece of the synth-leather underneath so that it was sandwiched between the quilt top and the tissue paper.

This made stitching it down along the lines an infinitely more pleasant and accurate experience – to complete the look, I only had to carefully trim the excess material away from my stitched lines et voilà! Claws!

As you can also see, I did decide to embroider a bit on the leaves – and I think I can say with confidence that I can totally do French knots now! The floss used for all the embroidery is DMC’s speciality glow-in-the-dark thread – because if you’re going to glow, GLOW! Right? Right! This is the same floss as I used to outline Slothy, and a bit is also couched into one of the vines on the branch.

Without rootling out and setting up a tripod, this was the steadiest photo I could manage of the piece after the lights went out, but it shows the general idea. I’m really pleased that the different patterns of French knots on the leaves can actually be distinguished, and the glowing stars on the background fabric can be made out, too.

Because I knew that I wanted at least some of the leaves (especially along the top) to overlap the edge of the quilt, I had to think carefully about the order of attaching the binding, hanging solution and leaves so that they didn’t interfere with each other. To begin with, I trialed different leaf positions until I had a look I liked, then attached them one by one. To keep the nice leafy look of them, the best way to attach them appeared to be to stitch along either side of the midvein of each leaf, far enough to to make sure the leaf was firmly attached and wouldn’t flop, but not so far that the stitching would obstruct other features or get in the way of the binding. This also means that the leaves can be pulled back to “peek” underneath.

If I hadn’t literally only just had this thought, it could have been super-cute to add some little “hidden” creatures underneath the leaves as a kind of quilty “Easter egg” – ah well, perhaps next time! 😉

Once the leaves on the branch were attached, I tackled the hanging solution:

After quite a lot of thought, I made a folded “sleeve” that matched the top edge of the circle, interfaced it for support, drew a couple of angled lines at either end and, with the aid of a lil more interfacing for reinforcement, inserted long buttonholes along each line, but only on one side of the sleeve. The idea is that a wooden dowel can be passed easily through the buttonholes and be held inside the sleeve, thereby supporting the quilt despite the slightly unconventional shape. The sleeve was initially attached to the back of the quilt with a line of stitching 1/8″ from the edge, then held down more firmly when the binding was attached. (Incidentally, this photo also shows a bit I’m really fond of, namely, the “ghost” sloth on his branch, created by the quilting on the back. I was very particular about matching the needle and bobbin threads so the shape is really easy to make out.)

The binding was next – I confess I “cheated” a bit here and used a nice navy-blue satin binding from my favourite haberdashery shop in Cardigan, folded around the edge of the quilt, clipped into place and then secured with this decorative leafy stitch. Part of me is still slightly wondering whether I should have used a green thread for this, but actually I like that it doesn’t shout for attention against the rest of the quilt, while keeping the “rainforest” theme.

Ghost sloth is made of stars and rainbows!

Finally, with the binding safely on, I could attach the last three leaves at the bottom (the stitching holding them in place overlaps the binding) and call the piece finished. 🙂 It has certainly been an interesting journey and the destination, I hope, will not disappoint the recipient! Slothy is on his way to his new home in Canada right now, hopefully he’ll have a swift(!) and comfortable journey. He also allows me to tick off a scrappy milestone myself, given that he is almost entirely made with materials I already had in my stash – the only things I bought specially were the two glow-in-the-dark threads and the binding – and creating that ticker-tape effect sure had me burrowing through the scrap baskets!

Will be linking up with Needle’n’Thread Thursday, Can I Get A Whoop-Whoop and TGIFF – all links in the sidebar.  🙂

Construction Complete

IT’S FINISHED!

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And literally in the nick of time, too.  I finished the binding mere minutes before I had to go out, but it’s done.  🙂  There’s some bits I would change and some bits I’m not happy with (aren’t there always?) but on the whole I’m pretty damn proud of it.

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The backing is a Marvel fabric I found in Birmingham, which I just couldn’t resist, and I used left-over yellows from the piecing to make a scrappy binding.  It finishes at approximately 36 x 48”, which seems to have become my preferred size for baby quilts.  Taken all together, it probably took me less than a week to make, but I was lucky I had the chance to really focus on it and keep the momentum going, or it would never have gone done in time.

Some of my favourite bits:

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Gotham’s graffiti artists are an educated bunch!  😀  I found this equation fabric in a shop in Beaumaris on Anglesey and couldn’t resist scooping it up.

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I’m pleased with how this tower came out, it was a bit that was really bothering me about how it would go together and it changed shape quite a bit during the design phase.  It was paper-pieced and ended up working well, even with tiddly pieces.

Awkward bits:

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Right in the middle there is probably the most awkward partial seam in the whole quilt.  It definitely needs sorting if there’s ever a Gotham 2.0.  (It’s not stained, that’s just drips from the iron.)

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Perhaps designing several blocks of 1/4 x 1/2” finished bits was not the best idea.  I know right?!  Who knew?!  It came close to working but isn’t right, so I’d do that differently next time.

For the quilting, I didn’t really have time to do anything terribly fancy (and I didn’t want to fight the busy buildings), so I ended up with organic straight lines for pretty much everything.  I used different shades of grey Guetermann polyester on the buildings, working mostly vertically but also following the shapes of roofs as applicable, the bat signal light effect was done with variegated yellow cotton from YLI and the sky was horizontal lines in blue polyester.  I used Superior’s Bottom Line in light grey for all of the back, so that it would hopefully not detract too much from Iron Man et al.  Mostly everything was fine, although I did struggle with a bit of puckering and shifting when it came time to quilt the sky, especially towards the top, which was extremely annoying.  I suspect an issue with my pinning, or perhaps it all got loosened up when I was shifting the quilt about during the building quilting (I used the walking foot almost exclusively).  So, things to work on.  Always things to work on!  🙂  But this one definitely counts as a triumph for me, especially given how much I had to hurry to get it done.

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social, Needle & Thread Thursday and TGIFF as and when they go live.  Thanks for looking!  🙂

Wrestling the Weekender

Wow.  People were not joking about this bag being a challenge to put together and I haven’t even got to the point of trying to attach zips (still waiting for them to arrive) or assemble the whole bag yet (because see above).  Heck, just buying the materials has been a challenge – trying to figure out how many meters of 44″ wide fabric is equivalent to umpty yards of 54″ wide fabric on the fly is not easy!  So I rather over-bought on canvas and lining fabric.  Whoops.  At least I can always find a use for lots of solid dark-blue quilting cotton.

As mentioned previously, I used a quilt-as-you-go method for the outer body of the bag and I’m really pleased with how that worked out.

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The Shimmer 2 prints are so cool!  I kept the lighter ones for the main and top panels and used the darker ones for the pocket panels:

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I love the texture of them!

To save on “pretty” fabric on the main panels, I only used the Shimmer 2 prints down to about 1-1/2″ below the top of the where the pocket panel would start, then I covered the whole bottom area with my chosen lining/piping/handles fabric, which is a plain dark blue.  For the same reason, I also chose to use the lining fabric on the bottom panel, and this is the only place that I decided to use the iron-on vinyl.

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After some thought, I applied the vinyl to the unquilted fabric and then quilted it onto the canvas/wadding.  I think it’s more likely to stay put this way and it’ll provide good protection where it’s most needed.

Now that everything’s starting to come together, I’m really happy with the colours:

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Looks quite smart!  However, I’m rather less pleased that my machine started skipping stitches when I attached the pocket and piping to the main panels.

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That’s really bad!  Not sure what it’s down to – most of the stitching is ok, but it struggles and skips most over areas of extra bulk, like seams and the handles.  It could be because I was using a piping foot for this and thus couldn’t use the Pfaff IDT system (built-in walking foot). Or possibly I need to switch up a needle size.  Might be a speed issue, but I don’t think so – it seems to happen whether I go super-slow or not.  Anyway, it’s something I need to sort out or the whole bag might come unraveled at a crucial moment!  Also, I don’t like piping.  Not even with a piping foot!  *grumble*  (Except that it looks really good on a finished item, of course.)

This is about as far as I can get with the bag now until the zips and bag feet show up.  All the lining is cut out and interfaced (because I’m using patchwork-weight fabric) and I’ve added one pocket to one of the inner panels already:

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This was a bit of a “happy accident” – I accidentally cut out the pocket panel linings too short at first and didn’t realise until I was trying to interface it.  There would have been swearing, but then I realised that the two miscuts were perfect for making an inner pocket instead.  Yay!  The other panel is waiting for a zip for a zipper pocket.

If I don’t completely lose my rag making this bag for my sister, I have all the canvas panels ready-cut to make a second one for myself.  It all depends on how the final assembly goes!  But for now, I get to have a bit of a break while I wait for the rest of the bits to show up, and I’m off to a sewing show at the NEC tomorrow with my friends from Quilt Club.  I’ll try not to spend too much!  😉

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Needle and Thread Thursday!  🙂

How Not to Make a Purse

Mother’s Day is looming on the horizon and I know mum could do with a new purse and phone case.  After my recent experiments with iron-on vinyl, I thought this would be a good practical application of it.  I apologise for a lack of progress shots here; I was mostly fumbling my way through this one and forgot about my camera in the general stew of trying to figure out what the crap I was doing at any given moment.

After some rummaging around on the interwebs, I found a couple of tutorials (well, one that referenced another) that looked as though they might result in something mum would like using.  However, neither is particularly clearly written, and during the later stages I ran into some definite issues, which were almost certainly made worse by my modifications to the general design but I think they would have caused problems anyway.

The tutorials I loosely followed are here and here.  The initial stages of creating the card pockets and adding interfacing and vinyl to the outer layer went pretty smoothly, once I’d made a decision to convert all measurements (mostly) to inches – don’t get me wrong, I love me an SI unit, but not when all my quilting rulers are in imperial!  However, I could only get hold of some mid-weight woven iron-on interfacing at the local shop, and I don’t think it has the firmness I was looking for.  It’s odd stuff, I think it could be good for some things but it doesn’t work well here, unfortunately.  I reckon even fusible wadding might have been a better bet.

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I liked the idea of adding a flap, but didn’t like the idea of using a hairband, so I decided to use a flap plus a magnetic snap (which I installed the wrong way around because I can be quite daft at times).  Initially I wasn’t going to bother with the patchy strip on the outside, but then decided that the outside really needed another pocket and realised that it was also going to be too short for a decent flap if I didn’t, so I used an unpieced strip of a contrasting fabric and added in a small lined pocket.  That’s a bit I’m pretty pleased with, actually.  The zip isn’t quite a concealed zip (I think it’s the wrong kind for that), but I’m quite happy with how the whole thing worked in the end.

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I also didn’t like that the original tutorial didn’t bother to line the interior zipped pocket, so I arranged for a proper lining for mine, to match the lining of the purse and the outer zipped pocket.

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Again, I’m pretty pleased with how that came out as a general concept.  You could stash a LOT of loose change in there!  And I added in an extra separator flap behind the other set of card pockets to act as a divider between… whatever, really.  Notes and receipts, perhaps?

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So, what went wrong?

Well, part of the problem is the depth that I left the card pockets at.  I used a WOF strip cut it in half to make the two card holder strips, and measured the pockets (in cm) from one end as described in the tutorial because for this it didn’t much matter whether I used inches or cm as long as the pocket width matched the purse width.  There was only a slight excess of fabric after all the pockets had been marked and folded, which I trimmed back to meet the shorter end, but the overall depth of the card pocket sections still seemed pretty deep – too deep, really.

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I could probably have trimmed them back about 1″ and they would have been fine.  I guess the original tutorial didn’t do this because they added a magnetic snap in that excess fabric?  Maybe?

Anyway, that depth makes this “purse” begin to look more like a mini handbag – it’s giant!  And even with the extra strip added to the outer cover, the outer still came up looking a bit short.  So, not awesome.  And that’s before I tried to make a pointed flap which didn’t really come out as I wanted because there wasn’t really enough fabric.  The whole thing also feels really floppy, even with the vinyl on the outer cover.  It really, really needs a firmer interfacing.

Lastly, there’s the way the outer, lining and pockets are joined together.  In the tutorial, the pockets are basted to the liner, then the liner+pockets and the outer are placed right sides together and a seam is sewn around the edges with a gap for turning through.  The whole thing is then turned through, pressed and topstitched to close the gap and give that all-important finished look and feel (the original tutorial only topstitches the turn-through gap, but my feeling is that the whole purse needs it, really).  Fine… but.  The folds of the card-holder pockets generate a LOT of bulk even when there’s only one layer, with no outer/liner and no zip to contend with.

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Sewing a seam and then turning through creates a double thickness of an already chunky thickness of fabric; even the Pfaff threw up its hands in despair and disgust when asked to topstitch through that lot, and I don’t blame it!  And the topstitching failure has made a right mess of the vinyl, too.

Lastly, turning vinyl-covered fabric through a small gap creates some really ugly creasing that’s just not something you’d want to show off to anyone.  Bleh.  Also, yuck.  Do not do this.

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A much better method (and one I might have used if I’d bothered to engage brain) would be to place the outer and liner wrong sides together after basting the pockets to the lining and go around them with some bias binding in a complementary colour; you would avoid massive excesses of seam bulk and zips and the finish on the outer layer would not end up creased to hell and back.  This would also avoid the distortion of the lining and interior pockets caused partly by the big fat chunky seams.

In short, I’ve wasted a good day’s sewing and some nice materials to discover that this is definitely not a good way to make a purse!  But it has been educational, and learning something new is rarely a bad thing.  Or so I’m telling myself!  :p  I think it may still be possible to salvage something from this mess (I would be sorry to lose all my efforts on the card holders and zipped pockets), and I still need a Mother’s Day gift for Sunday, so I will be unpicking some of this to reuse in a more effective item.  More to come soon, I hope!

Linking up with Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday.  🙂

Mug Rugs – Using Iron-On Vinyl

I love a good experiment!  I’m planning to make some items that I might want to use iron-on vinyl for, so I decided to order some and have a play with it to see what it can (and can’t) do.

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I wanted to test how it looks when applied to fabric with a metallic element, and I wanted to see if it could be successfully applied over already-quilted fabric.  Enter my test subjects, four 4″ quarter-square triangle blocks (which were themselves a test to see if I could make big enough QST units from 5″ charm squares for a different project – the answer was no!).

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I grabbed four more suitable charm squares for the backs and some scrap wadding, then quilted my four little quilt sandwiches with some simple straight-line quilting:

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Next, the vinyl!  It’s easy to cut – there are helpful guidelines on the paper backing.  The “sticky side” I found to be not actually that sticky, though that’s probably a good thing.  If it were really sticky, it would be more likely to stick irredeemably to itself or be harder to apply to the fabric without annoying bubbles. The instructions tell you to place the peeled-off protective paper onto the vinyl to protect it during pressing, although you might also need a couple of bits of ordinary printer paper to protect your iron and ironing board from little bits of plastic poking out from the edges, which you will get unless you’re some kind of ninja-genius with a pair of scissors and are only dealing with regular shapes.

It appears to work ok on quilted fabric, although a fair bit of pressure is needed to seal it really well into the quilted grooves.  The metallic red fabric looks better than I feared it would, though it has lost a bit of the sparkle effect.  I think that’s the effect of making the whole thing shiny – it “flattens” the shine that was already there.  Claims of durability were somewhat undermined by me scoring the vinyl quite easily with my thumbnail, although it was warm from the iron at the time.  When the vinyl had cooled, it did seem more resistant to scratches, though I don’t think I would choose to use it for anything that would experience serious abrasion.  I’m also not sure how much flexing it would handle without coming unstuck.

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Here are the four mug rugs all finished and bound, with vinyl on both sides of each mat.  I am not quite sure that I am completely sold on how it looks over the top of quilting, but it worked a lot better than I feared it might.  I am not completely sure whether I will use it for the project I’m planning, but I think I will definitely use it for other things, such as more coasters or place mats.  I like the idea of them being more easily wipe-able.  And at least now I have a set of unique coasters for my cups of tea in my craft room – I can almost hear my cutting mats breathing sighs of relief!

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And what’s the project that may or may not see the use of iron-on vinyl, you might ask?  Well…

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Oh yes!  I’ve seen a few examples of Amy Butler’s (in)famous Weekender bag around the place, I really like the look of it, and my sister needs a birthday present next month and her old overnight bag has died a death (heck, I don’t technically need one but I kind of want one for me, too).  My plan is to get hold of the firmest, sturdiest canvas I can find and then borrow Elizabeth Hartman’s quilt-as-you-go method, and I have spent some time tracking down helpful blog and forum posts to help me piece this beastie.  If my sister is very lucky, I may well use my RK Shimmer 2 bundle for her one!  I’m considering using the iron-on vinyl over the top of the quilted outer pocket panels and the underside of the bag to add a bit of protection and waterproofing (the rest will be fine with a good coating of scotchgard, I think), though I’m a little wary of how it will perform over a larger quilted area.  The pattern only arrived today, earlier than I feared it would, so I have a good amount of time to make it before my sister’s birthday in the middle of March.  Yay!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday!  🙂